Want to read a brand-new children’s book? Spoiler: It’s mine. :)

My first children’s book is coming out today in paperback!!! And ebook!! and Kindle!! YAY!

*dances from living room to kitchen and back*

WARNING: There are root vegetables involved. And princesses. And a dessert sluice with cream puffs. But the nameless princess of Cochem has it, um, under control.

paperback of Trouble With Parsnips a middle grade story about speaking up

Because I’m shy and retiring, you can read about it over at The Winged Pen.

Or you can find out more here, including the links for ebook, Kindle and reading it at your library.

Thanks so much for your interest!

Regards,

Laurel

p.s. Hope you enjoy it!

8 Ways Books are Better Than Scrolls: eBooks of the Ancient World

book cover of Libraries in the Ancient WorldWhile trying to figure out how ancient books were repaired, I came across the delightful Libraries in the Ancient World by Lionel Casson. It’s a small, friendly sort of book, clearly written and even the black and white illustrations are fascinating.

If you asked for a book in an ancient library, a page would bring you a bucketful of rolled-up parchment or papyrus with tags on them. You’d sit down and rummage through to find the chapter you wanted to read.

Chapter 8: From Roll to Codex is all about how a change in reading technology affects readers. What did the change mean for book lovers of long ago?

  1. Good for travel–no fragile edges to crumble, no tags to fall off and get lost.
  2. Space-saving–Carry more information in a smaller space because the writers can use both sides of the paper. Twice the capacity. 🙂
  3. Read with one hand–a scroll takes two hands: one to unroll and one to re-roll.
  4. Bookmarks–mark any page or even any line.
  5. Find information quickly–just flip to the page, no more endless scrolling.
  6. “Public libraries had to adjust” to the new format. Instead of cubbies holding three layers of scrolls max, books could be stacked up on top of each other.
  7. “Standard” took a while–Casson gives the example of a book that had quires–the smaller bundles of pages sewn together to make a book–in all different sizes: 5-sheet, 4-sheet, 1-sheet, 5-sheet, 5-sheet, 8-sheet.
  8. Authors had to advertise or explain the new format. Some things never change. 🙂

This little slender book, at Tryphon’s store,

costs just four coppers, and not a penny more.

Is four too much? It puts you in the red?

Then pay him two; he’ll still come out ahead.

–Casson, Lionel. Libraries in the Ancient World, Yale University Press, 2001, pg. 104.

Sound familiar?

Casson studied Egyptian literature by era to see how many were scrolls and how many were codices (books as we know them). Christians were early adopters of the new books. Bibles were made only as codices from the 2nd or 3rd centuries on.

bar chart showing % books versus scrolls by century in Egyptian 'finds'.
By studying Egyptian ‘finds’, Lionel Casson figured out how long it took Egyptian readers to adopt the ‘codex’–the book form–over a roll of parchment or papyrus: about 400 years.

Just for fun, compare to these e-book adoption percentages for U.S. readers (17%, 23%, 28%) and the increase in tablet use for reading:

 

There’s a great photo of a 7th century wooden writing tablet with ten leaves (pg. 127). It looks like a stack of pioneer school child slates fastened together. Here’s an example from Pinterest to give you the idea.

Heavy-duty.

If that’s what a notebook was like, no wonder everyone wanted parchment books instead.

Hope you enjoyed this field trip to the ancient world!

Happy reading and writing!

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If you’d like to stay in touch, sign up for my Reader’s List. Once a month, I share new middle grade fiction, story-related freebies, and/or related blog posts. If it’s not your thing, you can unsubscribe at any time.

 

10 MORE Great Books for the Young Readers (9-12 yrs) on Your List

graphic of book covers described in post

Need book recommendations for the 9 to 12 year old readers on your gift list? Here are the 10 books for this age group I really, really enjoyed in 2017.

This list has heartwarming adventure stories about orphans, the Middle Ages, life in the theater, and adventures at sea. Quite a few of these will make you laugh out loud!

For more about a book, click on the title to read my GoodReads review.

Book cover for EMELIN with boy and girl in monks' robes against a dark snowy monastery1. EMELIN by Jackie Randall is a story of a girl with a rare talent for illustrating books. Her talent is the only thing that stands between her and lifetime of hunger.

Who is this for?

  • Readers who love the Middle Ages!
  • Readers who love scrappy heroines!
  • Readers who love books about books!

 

2. THE INQUISITOR’S TALE by Adam Gidwitz is an exciting story with entertaining illustrations–arrows shoot across one of the pages–and three very different children and a magical dog.

Who is this for?

  • Readers who love the Middle Ages + magic!
  • Readers who love funny + true characters + amazing plot twists!
  • Readers of graphic novels/comic books who enjoy fast-paced, illustrated adventures.

3. E. G. Foley’s THE LOST HEIR (Book 1 of The Gryphon Chronicles) is a historical fantasy set in a fantastic Victorian London and is charming all the way through. E.G. Foley–the husband and wife team who author these books–clearly know what young readers will enjoy.

Who is this for?

  • Readers who like to fly!
  • Readers who love unicorns, mermaids, villains, fairies and Queen Victoria!
  • Readers who want every chapter to deliver!

4. Gary L. Blackwood’s THE SHAKESPEARE STEALER is the exciting and twisty story of a scrappy orphan boy called “Widge” who gets the job of stealing Mr. Shakespeare’s newest play.

Who is this for?

  • Readers who love theater!
  • Readers who love backstage secrets!
  • Readers who love series!

 

5. Holly Goldberg Sloan’s SHORT is the hilarious story of a girl who is short for her age. She gets a part as a Munchkin in the local production of The Wizard of Oz. Short people are calling the shots and that changes everything!

Who is this for?

  • Readers who love theater!
  • Readers who love to fly!
  • Readers who love when kids are in charge!

 

6. Linda Sue Park’s A SINGLE SHARD is about the orphan, Tree-Ear, who wants to “throw” the famous pottery vases that are beautiful enough for royalty. A philosophical, whimsical, and beautiful book!

Who is this for?

  • Readers who love the film, THE KARATE KID!
  • Readers who love the Middle Ages + Asia!
  • Readers who want to know what life was like for an orphan in Korea a long time ago!

7. Lauren Wolk’s BEYOND THE BRIGHT SEA is a warm adventure story with lots of fascinating angles! I loved this book.

Who is this for?

  • Readers who love ISLAND OF THE BLUE DOLPHINS and sea adventures!
  • Readers who love ANNE OF GREEN GABLES and warm friendships and adoptive families!
  • Readers who love buried treasure!

 

8. Ellen Booraem’s TEXTING THE UNDERWORLD is a wacky story that really shouldn’t work at all and the perfect cure for a gloomy winter day when you need to laugh out loud!

Who is this for?

  • Readers who love to laugh!
  • Readers who love when the underdog wins!
  • Readers who love colorful families!

9. Jessica Day George’s PRINCESS OF THE MIDNIGHT BALL is a re-telling of the fairytale called the twelve dancing princesses in English and die zertanzte Schuhe in German. I actually liked the second book in the series even more: THE PRINCESS OF GLASS.

Who is this for?

  • Readers who love fairy tale re-tellings!
  • Readers who love dancing (and knitting heroes!)
  • Readers who love series!

10. Andrew Clement’s FRINDLE

Both of my children really enjoyed this book when they were younger. I finally read it and it’s so much fun! Excellent and funny.

Who is this for?

  • Readers who love school stories!
  • Readers who want to make their mark on the world!
  • Readers who love stories about what happens when you don’t follow the “rules”!

BONUS: William Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer’s THE BOY WHO HARNESSED THE WIND (Young Reader’s Edition) is the true story of a boy who reads about physics in his tiny village library after a famine means he can’t pay school fees any more. He’s determined to build a tower that will keep his family from ever going hungry again.

Who is this for?

  • Readers who love libraries!
  • Readers who love true heroes!
  • Readers who want to be inspired!

WARNING for sensitive readers: there’s a very sad part about William’s dog that could be challenging. I skipped over some parts during the famine times, but the rest of the story is perfect for all readers!

 

If your voracious readers have read EVERYTHING and you need MORE, here are my 2016 top 10 books for Middle Grade readers (9 to 12).

Best wishes for wonderful holidays with your loved ones!

Happy reading and writing!

See you in 2018!

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If you’d like to stay in touch, sign up for my Reader’s List. Once a month, I share new middle grade fiction, story-related freebies, and/or related blog posts. If it’s not your thing, you can unsubscribe at any time.

Persistence and the artistic dream in SOMEDAY, SOMEDAY, MAYBE by Lauren Graham

book cover of girl in red jacket going over bridge in New York City
Someday, Someday, Maybe by Lauren Graham is a charming and funny story of a young woman pursuing an artistic dream.

Usually I write about middle grade, young adult books, or writing craft books here, but this story of a young woman pursuing the acting dream has lots of parallels with the writing life. A nice novel to cheer up overworked writers with a bit of unexpected creative philosophy built in.

Someday, Someday, Maybe is a charming debut novel for adults by actress Lauren Graham. It’s funny, with perfect, believeable details–except maybe the terrible script which is perfectly AWFUL.

 

 

 

My two favorite quotes:

One of the characters explains J.D. Salinger’s Franny and Zooey. (I was grateful for this because I’ve read Salinger’s novel and never could figure out what it was about.)

“. . .the act of repetition itself–will bring enlightenment. That’s the thing that always stuck out to me–the idea that quantity becomes quality. I always took it to mean if you do anything enough, if you keep putting effort in, eventually something will happen, with or without you. You don’t have to have faith when you start out, you just have to dedicate yourself to practice as if you have it.” –Chapter 29, pg. 249

I love this explanation of the actor’s advice: “Faster, Funnier, Louder.”

“FASTER–don’t talk down to the audience, take us for a spin, don’t spell everything out for us, we’re as smart as you–assume we can keep up; FUNNIER–entertain us, help us see how ridiculous and beautiful life can be, give us a reason to feel better about our flaws; LOUDER–deliver the story in the appropriate size, DON’T be indulgent or keep it to yourself, be generous–you’re there to reach US.” –Chapter 30, pg. 255

I’m off to do some repetitive practice with my novel revision!

Happy writing and revising!

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If you’d like to stay in touch, sign up for my Reader’s List. Once a month, I share new middle grade fiction, story-related freebies, and/or related blog posts. If it’s not your thing, you can unsubscribe at any time.

 

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Looking in from the outside: Megan Whalen Turner’s The Queen’s Thief series

Book cover for THICK AS THIEVES shows boat with masts, white mountains and a tower in the foreground, black background with gold title font.
The newest in Megan Whalen Turner’s The Queen’s Thief series.

Thick as Thieves came out this year (Yay! I read it twice in a row!) and I’ve been enjoying re-reading Megan Whalen Turner’s The Queen’s Thief series. She’s making me think about the story from an outsider’s perspective.

Megan Whalen Turner’s beloved Eugenides character is showcased in a way that reminds me of Dorothy Dunnett’s well-loved Francis Crawford of Lymond. Both authors have a lovely, twisty plotting style with snappy dialogue to warm any reader’s heart.

Dorothy Dunnett rarely gives the reader an inside glimpse of Lymond’s mind or heart. Rife and contradictory speculation lets the reader discover Lymond’s true character, just the way we get to know people in real life.

In The Queen’s Thief series, Megan Whalen Turner moves the point of view progressively further away from her key character, Eugenides.

The Thief is told in the first person by the Queen’s Thief.

The Queen of Attolia seems to be third person omniscient because we get interior thoughts from both the Thief and from the Queen.

The King of Attolia is told by an Attolian guard who resists being won over by the new King of Attolia.

A Conspiracy of Kings is told from the King of Sounis’s point of view.

Thick as Thieves is a quest story about an Attolian guard told from the point of view of Kamet, the head slave of the Mede Emperor’s nephew, as he figures out what the King of Attolia is really like. The relationship that develops reminds me of the one between Captain Jack Aubrey and Stephen Maturin in Patrick O’Brian’s Master and Commander.

What are the advantages of an outsider’s perspective for a story?

  1. It makes the reader “an accomplice” and works especially well in a series where we already know and love the main character.

“And this is the genius of Megan Whalen Turner because in book 3, we, the readers, are Eugenides’s accomplices. We sit back and wait for the coin to drop for everybody else as it has dropped for us in books 1 and 2.” —The Book Smugglers

2. The outsider can question what the main character never says (or thinks about). The reader gains a guide and a companion in the story, a Watson to a closed-off and brilliant Sherlock Holmes. Megan Whalen Turner’s Costis does this effectively, as does Kamet.

3. Misdirection, fame, and mystery. An obvious advantage (and disadvantage): we see what the main character looks like from the outside. Megan Whalen Turner uses this to great effect in The King of Attolia when we see what Eugenides looks like to everyone else.

Interestingly, Eugenides’ relationship to the god of thieves is always shown to the reader from the outside. This conveys mystery better than any internal thought process could.

4. Someone to carry the ball. A story that ends in a tragic death can only be told by an outside narrator. Not sure if that’s an advantage. Someone has to be left to do the wrap up. Unless you’d like a Shakespearean monologue after death delivered by your main character. Thankfully, Megan Whalen Turner hasn’t done this yet. (MWT–Please don’t kill off your beloved characters!)

Here’s the link to the whole review by The Book Smugglers which says what I’ve been trying to say about the change in narration and the power of these books, so I’ll stop now. 🙂

What I really want to say is: Read the books!

Here’s another fun mini-interview with Megan Whalen Turner about The Queen’s Thief series. And another one.

Happy reading!

______________

If you’d like to stay in touch, sign up for my Reader’s List. Once a month, I share new middle grade fiction, story-related freebies, and/or related blog posts. If it’s not your thing, you can unsubscribe at any time.

 

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Becoming an artist at The Winged Pen

book cover in graphic novel style, boy and girl in brown medieval cloaks in a snowy dark wood with a monastery looming behind
Jackie Randall’s EMELIN is an exciting adventure story about a girl who is a book artist.

If you’re looking for me this week, I’m over at The Winged Pen interviewing author Jackie Randall about her middle grade adventure: EMELIN.

I really enjoyed this book!

The gutsy girl artist, Emelin, is appealing. Her mysterious friend Wolf is also intriguing.

The story is easy-peasy accessible and the everyday details of England in the middle ages are effortlessly accurate. Try it, you’ll like it.

You can read the interview with author, Jackie Randall, here.

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If you’d like to stay in touch, sign up for my Reader’s List. Once a month, I share new middle grade fiction, story-related freebies, and/or related blog posts. If it’s not your thing, you can unsubscribe at any time.

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The Book Club for Kids talks satisfying reads and Gary D. Schmidt’s ORBITING JUPITER

Book cover showing boy walking on snowy road with arms out like an airplane.
Gary D. Schmidt’s Orbiting Jupiter is the story of a “troublish” boy with a two-month-old baby named Jupiter.

A recent The Book Club for Kids episode is about Gary D. Schmidt’s Orbiting Jupiter. 

I haven’t read this YA book yet but I’m very interested. The readers’ lively reactions make me want to be “there in the barn with them” and find out what happens to this “troublish” boy with a two-month-old baby named Jupiter.

Gary D. Schmidt gives some fascinating and touching backstory about Orbiting Jupiter, how he writes, and how he became a writer of fiction.

Bonus for writers: Middle grade readers reveal what writers can include to create satisfying books. (At 21:00)

  • catch our feelings
  • make us wonder what happens next
  • a lot of drama
  • surprise at the beginning
  • keep us interested

An interview with Gary D. Schmidt about the setting of Orbiting Jupiter.

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If you’d like to stay in touch, sign up for my Reader’s List. Once a month, I share new middle grade fiction, story-related freebies, and/or related blog posts. If it’s not your thing, you can unsubscribe at any time.

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